Can you give us a basic overview of your pediatric diabetes research?
My research at OU goes in 2 separate directions; I'm primarily a basic scientist, looking at how adipocytes (fat cells) interact with the immune system. It's currently thought that inflammation may play a role in the development of Type 2 diabetes; not all people who are obese go on to develop Type 2 diabetes.
So I'm looking at a very basic level of how adipocytes might interact normally with the immune system, and hope to (in the future) figure out how this might go wrong.
It's important because we know from the TODAY study (that OU was and continues to be a major part of) that kids that develop Type 2 diabetes fail their initial treatment much more quickly than adults, and our treatment options in kids are pretty limited. Figuring out how and why the disease progresses so rapidly is vital.
My other research focus is for Type 1 diabetes (T1DM); I'm the site primary investigator for two nationwide studies: the Type 1 Diabetes Exchange and TrialNet. These studies look into the progression and early treatment of T1DM (that's T1DEx) as well as the possible prevention or cure of T1DM (that's TrialNet).
We are still recruiting patients into TrialNet, because, surprisingly to most people, we don't actually know what causes T1DM. We know that there's a baseline genetic risk, and that 1 in 300 average people will develop T1DM, but 1 in 20 first degree relatives of a T1DM patient will go on to develop disease.
So, we screen family members of newly diagnosed patients with T1DM to see if they have the antibodies suggesting they might be at increased risk for diabetes. If they have a certain antibody profile, we follow them closely with a variety of tests, and can even occasionally enroll them in T1DM prevention studies that are planned and coordinated through TrialNet.
It's exciting to be a part of cutting edge clinical research like this as well!